Feature | Beyond the Cube (New Year Special)

By Calum Peak 03.01.2012 11

Beyond the Cube: The World Outside Nintendo

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to a very festive issue of Beyond the Cube. This month we take a look at all the best games to hit last year. Take a look and see what you may have missed in 2011; you may want to treat yourself in the January sales. We have a little bit of everything for every kind of taste, and each title is the cream of the crop - and boy has it been a good year for games. We've been enthralled by stories, shocked by plot twists, shouting with adrenaline and having a laugh with mates. So saddle up next to the warm fire, grab a drink, and let's wander through this rather special episode of Beyond the Cube which has been handcrafted for your appreciation by both myself and Az Elias. Enjoy!

Role Playing Game (RPG)


The Witcher 2 (PC)


Chances are, the console-centric audience won't be all too familiar with The Witcher 2, as it's a PC exclusive (for now). However, that makes it no less spectacular, and is one of the best titles to come out this year for the platform. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings sees the player once again taking control of Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, one of the few remaining monster hunters. This time he has been framed for murder of the high king and must travel the world to uncover the truth. Throughout the story players come across beautifully crafted worlds, deadly monsters, a deep combat system, and well developed characters. The crux of this game however, are the decisions that the player makes. There are the bad and good choices, but the lines between them blur; choosing for instance, to give someone a sword or not during a vital moment can shift the whole weight of the game. This even goes so far as not visiting entire sections of the campaign - you'll want to play this more than once. CD Projekt has created a behemoth of a title that deserves your undivided attention. Have a console? Fear not, The Witcher 2 will be heading to both PS3 and 360 sometime next year.

Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten (PlayStation 3)


Disgaea 4 has been referred to as the finest game since the original, with some calling it the best to date. The turn-based strategy role-playing game now features a much more politically heavy storyline compared to its predecessors, with Nippon Ichi feeling finished with the systems provided by a school setting. Whilst staying true to the mechanics that have worked so well in the series, Disgaea 4 brings in a lot of new elements such as monster fusion, which creates larger and more powerful monsters, and a punishment system which lets players bribe enemies or force them to reveal treasures. Online map editing is a fantastic addition, in a world which is gorgeously crafted with cute detailed character sprites. With an emotional and humorous storyline, a magnitude of items to find to bolster your characters and level them up to 9999, and tons of post-game content, Disgaea 4 is perfect for JRPG aficionados that can potentially lose hundreds of hours to the game.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)


Dragons. No, seriously, I'm half tempted to leave it at that, but you want to know more, don't you? Elder Scrolls is a series of fantasy role playing titles where you can do nothing and everything. Starting off by creating your own character from a large variety of options, the player has the choice of following the story, or seeing where their exploring takes them. Want to be an elf that focuses on decapitating monsters with your broadsword? Sure. Or maybe an Orc that has an affinity for conjuring huge beasts to deal your damage whilst you go and pick a lock; it's your game. As foretold, the dragons have returned to the land of Skyrim, and it quickly becomes apparent that your character is the new Dragonborn, legendary users of the Thu'um (Shouts) of the Dragon tongue. As you progress your character can learn words scattered over walls which grant you special abilities such as the ability to breathe fire, and for the hell of it, call in a thunder storm to deal damage on a large scale. The real beauty of this game however is the world that Bethesda have created. From the towering mountains and the grassy tundras to the scale of the Dwarven ruins and the treasure that they hold, this is a living breathing world like no other before. Securing Game of the Year (GOTY) for 2011, and deservedly so, it should not be one to pass up on - though you may need a couple of hundred hours spare, this game will eat up your life.

Indie / Arcade


PixelJunk Shooter 2 (PlayStation 3)


PixelJunk Shooter is regarded as one of the greatest PSN titles, so when Q-Games announced a sequel, it was always going to be difficult to top. Thankfully, that's exactly what they did in PixelJunk Shooter 2, with brand new gameplay elements, lots of challenging levels and a brilliant local and online multiplayer mode. In this new mode, players switch between offensive and defensive sides, rescuing survivors and trying to blow each other's ships up. A wealth of new abilities and weapons not seen in the single player mode are present here too, with some cool and inventive items inverting gravity, turning water into lava and switching places with your opponent. Complex single player levels with new fluids and a terrific soundtrack make for hours upon hours of fun.

Bastion (PC, Xbox 360)


The indie developers have surprised the industry time and time again over the last few years with games such as Super Meat Boy, Limbo, and Shadow Complex. Now from Supergiant Games we have Bastion, a gorgeous action RPG. Taking control of 'the Kid', you set about repairing the Bastion in the aftermath of the calamity that has befallen the world. Along the way you will meet survivors, and the game will take some startling turns. The visuals speak for themselves, lodged somewhere between animé and painterly art styles, it really brings the world to life - literally, too, as the levels actually form as you progress under your feet, each more exuberant than the last. Easily the most impressive segment of Bastion however, is the narration. The voice oversees everything the Kid does in real time without ever feeling out of place or sudden; everything from picking up and swapping weapons to falling off a level is spoken beautifully. It could give Morgan Freeman a run for his money. Simply put, Bastion is a brilliant, engaging title that will keep you busy for a while; and for cheap.

Sonic CD (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, iOS, Android)


Unfortunately, Sonic CD often gets overlooked since it was originally released on the unpopular Mega-CD. However, it does have strong adoration from fans, despite being a bit different to the usual Sonic games. Rather than primarily needing to zip from one side of the level to the goal at the end, the acts in Sonic CD have past, present and future versions which are accessible by hitting the corresponding signs and maintaining speed for a few seconds. It's the objective of the player to destroy the robot generator in the past in order to create a good future. Now, players can more easily experience this absolute gem in 2D platforming through modern gaming systems, with even more features. SEGA haven't simply ported the original game over; they've added in true 16:9 widescreen support, the ability to switch between the JP and US soundtrack, trophies and achievements, Tails as an unlockable character, the Sonic 2 spindash and other content. The bargain price makes this even more of a steal too, with SEGA showing the rest of the industry that this is how re-releases of retro games should be done.

Puzzle


Portal 2 (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)


The original Portal was nothing more than a short freebie with The Orange Box, a collection of the best titles that Valve had to offer. It was received by the community with such gusto, however, that they went ahead and made Portal 2. The premise is simple: your character, Chell, creates portals with a handheld portal device to reach the exit of each room. Not too bad, except that you have psychotic computers that want to exact revenge on your very being and make it as difficult as possible for you to reach your objective. So, throw in a whole mix of light bridges, gravity tunnels, speed and bounce gels, plus some rather nasty turrets and you have yourself some rather complex puzzles. Portal 2 has just the right difficulty balance you would expect; when you are ready to give up in frustration at trying to solve a puzzle it suddenly dawns on you - and often makes you feel like an idiot due to a simple fact you have over looked. Portal 2 is an extremely lighthearted game thanks to brilliant performances from Stephen Merchant, Ellen McLain and J.K Simmons, its certainly one to make you chuckle. There is also an impressive co-op mode in which you can enlist a buddy to take on an entirely new host of hair pulling challenges. Simple and brilliant, a must have for your library.

Chime Super Deluxe (PlayStation 3)


In Chime players move and rotate shapes, dropping them onto a grid. A beatline moves across the grid, creating events as it passes placed shapes. By creating 3x3 blocks on the grid known as quads, different musical samples are activated depending on the size of the shape. Completed quads are cemented into the grid, with the goal for the player to achieve 100% coverage across the stage. The updated version of Chime, Chime Super Deluxe, adds in a much sought-after co-op mode and a versus mode for as many as four players. Co-op mode presents players with the task of working together to fill a grid as fast as possible, whereas versus mode pitches them against each other to fill their grids the fastest. Addictive, great music and cheap as chips; Chime Super Deluxe is the best puzzler to come out on PlayStation 3 in the last year.

Action Adventure & Platform


LittleBigPlanet 2 (PlayStation 3)


Expanding on the vast amount of unique, clever and crazy platform level designs players could create in the original hit game, LittleBigPlanet 2 goes even further, allowing you to produce puzzle, role-playing and racing stages to share with the whole world. Players can now create cutscenes, record their own sound effects, make tunes with a music sequencer, program enemies and link multiple levels together to automatically move to the next after completing one. The dedicated LBP.me website lets players search for levels and queue them up to play when you next go online with your PlayStation 3. The possibilities are endless, with millions of high quality user-created stages ready to dive into. LittleBigPlanet 2 isn't a platform game; it's a platform for games.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)


Deus Ex previously was a very PC orientated title and had thought to have sunk into gaming history along with other masterpieces. However, Eidos Montreal decided to bring the series back with a prequel; Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The year is 2027 and a time of great technical innovation. People are now getting augmentations, cybernetics that enhance physical and mental abilities. As with anything, there is a huge social and political divide between those that have augmentations and those that don't; the population is fractured. Adam Jensen, the protagonist in this dysfunctional world, manages to land himself in the midst of a huge conspiracy. Players can choose how they want to play to get through the story, going for either stealth or all out combat and tweaking their perks in accordance. Choices have some weight in how the story plays out, with different endings available according to how it's played, and there is so much to uncover in the environments. This was a surprise entry, and Eidos Montreal managed to pull it off spectacularly.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception (PlayStation 3)


The sequel to one of 2009's biggest games proves that, once again, Naughty Dog are right at the top when it comes to creating the best in cinematic immersive video games. Nathan Drake takes things to the absolute extreme when he finds himself jumping from ships in sea storms to fist fighting on board open aeroplanes. An unmatched level of believable and quality acting and some of the most gorgeous graphics on a console to date immerse the player in to the world of Uncharted 3 unlike any other game. Add in an addictive online multiplayer mode full of customisation, and this is most definitely a game you need to play if you own a PS3.

Racing


MotorStorm: Apocalypse (PlayStation 3)


MotorStorm: Apocalypse is a huge improvement over previous games in the series. In an urban setting feeling the effects of current natural disasters, tracks change randomly in real time due to earthquakes throwing buildings to the ground and destroying roads. A story mode is introduced, as well as a whole host of customisation options and new vehicles. The more solid online mode allows for the creation of in-depth game rules and tournaments, and a package that overall delivers a fantastic and thrilling arcade-like experience, presenting the player with a ton of freedom in one of the best looking racing games on the console.

Forza 4 (Xbox 360)


Forza has become huge within the racing game community, and for good reason. Forza 4 builds on its predecessors by adding more cars, more tracks and greater customisation than ever before - especially with the ability to import your Forza 3 save if you have one. Turn 10 have absolutely nailed the driving mechanics leading to a much more enjoyable racing experience, and if you didn't know it was a game, you may be mistaken for looking at a film or TV show - the game looks that good. For racing fans, Forza 4 is a must have this year.

First Person Shooter


Battlefield 3 (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)


If you are looking for a definitive multiplayer experience that will keep you coming back for more, then look no further than Battlefield 3. Whilst the single player is decent, the main meat of the title is found in its expansive online play. Battlefield's main attraction stems from its namesake; the maps themselves are huge and are filled with all manner of vehicles, both ground and aerial. The game comes to life with the Frostbite 2.0 engine with audio and visuals being unrivalled within the category; nothing beats the whizz of an RPG as it narrowly misses your head, or an entire building exploding and coming down around you. Battlefield becomes much more expansive when you get a few friends in on the action as well as team play is a crucial role into winning matches. Whilst the experience differs slightly on PC (up to 64 players) compared to console (24 players), all versions are worth sinking yourself into for a truly immersive shooter experience.

Resistance 3 (PlayStation 3)


Insomniac delivered a terrific story-focused sequel in the goriest and most-violent game in the Resistance series. Resistance 3 takes Joseph Capelli along a more linear path, fighting the Chimera who threaten to take over the human world, and trying to defend his family in an emotionally tense plot. The vast selection of unique weapons and guns makes for a lot of fun in an incredibly atmospheric environment, captured amazingly through elements like fog and darkness. The engaging gameplay and wonderful cinematics keep the player right on edge. Co-op campaign adds a new level of entertainment to the brilliant single-player mode, further solidifying the fact that this is one of 2011's best FPS games.

Well, that's it folks, you've reached the end! Whilst there are plenty of titles that didn't get a mention above such as Batman: Arkham City, Modern Warfare 3, Ms 'Splosion Man, Dead Space 2 and a whole host of others, you can find those in previous issues of Beyond the Cube. We hope you enjoyed our New Year special; 2011 really was a hell of a year. From me and Az, Happy New Year and we'll catch you soon!

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Comments

Ed (guest) 03.01.2012#1

Great selection of games guys. As an avid Nintendo fan I'm glad to see some non-Nintendo games featured here too. Both Res3 and Battlefield 3 are my GOTY for sure, alongisde Skyward Sword. Portal 2 is a great gem too. Sonic CD, really?

Dominic House (guest) 03.01.2012#2

Excellent read. Will now be wasting plenty of cash. God damn you Calum, you know I'm broke.

Excellent work, Cal! Looks brilliant now that it's all come together ;D Really enjoyed doing this, and hope we can continue to work together for features like this in the future. Will always be ready to drop input on the PS3 side of things :]

Ed (guest) said:
Sonic CD, really?

Sonic CD, yes! ;p Looking at the section for Indie/Arcade, Sonic CD has to be one of the best downloadable platformers of 2011. Add the fact that it isn't a straight port either - Sega went much further adding in modern features, both soundtracks and Tails. It's the perfect example of how to re-release old classics. Plus it's a measly £3.59 on PSN/400 points on XBL! Bargain!

Ed (guest) said:
Great selection of games guys. As an avid Nintendo fan I'm glad to see some non-Nintendo games featured here too. Both Res3 and Battlefield 3 are my GOTY for sure, alongisde Skyward Sword. Portal 2 is a great gem too. Sonic CD, really?

Thank you, thats the general plan!


Dominic House (guest) said:
Excellent read. Will now be wasting plenty of cash. God damn you Calum, you know I'm broke.

I aim to please Dom Smilie

Azuardo said:
Excellent work, Cal! Looks brilliant now that it's all come together ;D Really enjoyed doing this, and hope we can continue to work together for features like this in the future. Will always be ready to drop input on the PS3 side of things :]

Ed (guest) said:
Sonic CD, really?

Sonic CD, yes! ;p Looking at the section for Indie/Arcade, Sonic CD has to be one of the best downloadable platformers of 2011. Add the fact that it isn't a straight port either - Sega went much further adding in modern features, both soundtracks and Tails. It's the perfect example of how to re-release old classics. Plus it's a measly £3.59 on PSN/400 points on XBL! Bargain!

Looks better than I thought it would! Mike did a good job as per usual! In hindsight, there were a lot of games that I could of put in this, but I simply ran out of time to put in. Though generally they have been covered elsewhere.

I look forward to doing this sort of thing regularly too Az Smilie Still figuring out what else to do, and what is actually feasible to do.

Maybe our readers can throw some input to us in the way of other non-Nintendo things we could do. I've got my "If You Like..." feature as one other new feature recently, which looks at the best non-Nintendo versions of their popular franchises. With Beyond the Cube on top of that, I think we cover a good range of things, so it's difficult to think of much more. Suggestions welcome!

Azuardo said:
Maybe our readers can throw some input to us in the way of other non-Nintendo things we could do. I've got my "If You Like..." feature as one other new feature recently, which looks at the best non-Nintendo versions of their popular franchises. With Beyond the Cube on top of that, I think we cover a good range of things, so it's difficult to think of much more. Suggestions welcome!

Yeah, Adam suggested that too, and I think that would go down really well actually. I was also thinking of doing some podcasts or video features, something to shake up the formula. I'm waiting for my loans to come through to pick up a new screen and graphics card, and I think that could be a reality. Just have to decide on the topic - maybe the 'if you like...' would work well in video format, I'm aiming to get dolphin running as well which would be good for comparison.

Did he mean combining the two features? Because I've already had the first one featured on the site: If You Like 2D Zelda. I think keeping them separate things works better since they're both unique articles in their own right, yet still focus on the non-Nintendo side of things.

However, some sort of video/podcast work to compliment either feature would be great, definitely.

I gave Cal a list of potential areas to explore in his new role, but didn't say get rid of 'If You Like...'

I don't recall the details now, and the email's back in England on my Network Rail account, so can't get access to it at the moment. Basically it's just looking at other ways of integrating 'alternate content' onto Cubed3 without making the site multiformat.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

That's fine, probably just a slight misunderstanding.

I can continue to do the "If You Like" feature and submit to Cal when I complete it for posting?

Isn't the staff forum meant for this sort of chatter? Smilie

Yes sir!

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